22. EcoMotors

fuel-efficient clean combustion engine

Peter Hofbauer, founder, chairman, chief technical officer of EcoMotors
Source: Ecomotors
Peter Hofbauer, founder, chairman, chief technical officer of EcoMotors

Founder: Peter Hofbauer
Date launched:
2008
Funding: $58.8 million
Industries disrupted:
Automotive, Clean Tech, Transportation
Disrupting: Ford Motor Company, General Motors, Honda Motor Company
Competitors: Achates Power, Pinnacle Engines

EcoMotors (EM), backed by Bill Gates and Khosla Ventures, offers a solution to a pressing problem: how to generate more power with less fuel. And it's doing it right in Detroit's backyard by challenging conventional thinking about the size and efficiency of the internal combustion engine.

EM's patented engine architecture—named "opoc" for opposed piston, opposed cylinder—is unique in that it is significantly smaller and lighter than conventional engines. The company claims its engines are also highly versatile across a broad range of vehicle and machine applications and operate cleanly with the fuels and fueling infrastructure already in place. That can have broad application toward how automakers design and manufacture vehicles in the future.

Read MoreFULL LIST: 2014 CNBC DISRUPTOR 50

EM's opoc design eliminates the cylinder head and valve train components of conventional engines, resulting in fewer parts and a smaller, lighter and more compact package. Fewer parts also mean less friction, which contributes substantially to gains in fuel economy.

The technology has attracted joint venture partner FAW Jingye Engine. In March it was announced that the Chinese partner would invest $200 million to build a factory in China's Shanxi province to make 100,000 engines annually.

On the company's disruptive impact:

"[Our engines] are 50 percent more efficient, they are about half the weight and half the size and I’d like to say we have the lowest carbon footprint, including electric cars." -Donald Runkle, Former CEO

Technology